Chapter 2 – The News
The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. ~ Joseph Conrad
Midnight, November 1, 1975, Rostov Manor, Russia
The Lord of Rostov Manor, Gorgevy Rostov sat comfortably behind his leather desk glancing over the day’s financial reports. He wore his typical evening attire when alone and given the late hour, black plaid silk and flannel and silk night coat over similar colored flannel and silk bed wear. His phone, calendar, papers arranged neatly in their place, and an antique brass lamp softly glowed overhead. The pallor of golden light flickered from a row of candles on the nearby table which shone ever so lightly the silhouette of a small framed man as he approached the doorway. Rostov removed his wire frames and laid them on the desk and rubbed his ripened lids. It had been a tiring day, he reflected.
“Excuse me my Lord,” a tentative voice from just outside the door speaks.
Gorgevy glanced up from his desk, “Demetrius! Please do come in, I thought you had gone to bed some time ago.”
“My Lord, I,” he stuttered, “um Lord Bartholomew wishes to speak with you,” he struggled as he spoke, understanding from the tone of the caller, news would not be welcome, especially given the lateness of the hour.
“I must have dozed off, I didn’t hear the ring. Thank you Demetrius. You should return to bed. I won’t be long.”
“Very well my Lord. Good night then,” he replied, lingering near the doorway before allowing Lord Rostov his privacy. Demetrius, Rostov’s loyal manservant for more than thirty years, as his father had before him when he retired many years ago.
Rostov replaced his frames onto his face and reached for the phone. “Stephanos what brings you to call at such an hour?”
“Oh…I see…” his voice cracked. Ever so slightly the bronze of his complexion faded to an ominous shade of light grey. “You must be mistaken,” his voice, stuttered, unable to affectively articulate a word. “Are you certain?”
“This news is most distressing indeed.” Rostov responded. The palm of his hand cupped his forehead as his dark eyes moistened, ever so slight. He removed his glasses to wipe away any indication of wetness before it leaked down his face. A deep breath inward, then outward, he gained composure, and continued. “What of the children?”
“I see,” Rostov managed an utterance. He replaced his glasses. His face, grieve stricken and sallow. “What of the ‘gem?” He lightly tapped his fingers upon the desk as waited impatiently for a response. “Unfortunate.” He paused before he spoke again. He could not find the words he sought. “We must address this within the Council immediately. Given the hour I will have Demetrius make the necessary arrangements for the Château promptly in the morning.”
Rostov hesitated. “Yes, thank you for your concern. I will be fine. Stephanos our conversation must be kept to yourself. We do not wish to alarm the others. We know not whom is responsible for such a sadistic act as this.” His hands began to shake as he hung up the phone. This followed by a violent pain, which surged through his heart penetrating deep into his soul. He clinched his hand into a fist and held it tightly onto his chest as the pain slowly diminished. He realized he must remain strong and not alert others to his weakness no matter how grave the situation. He hung his head over his desk, and slowly, painfully took in another breath and raised his head as he exhaled. It was official – the last of the Akkadian bloodline had been eliminated. There were now only twelve seats that ruled the House of Thoth. Very unfortunate. He vowed to seek those responsible, and make sure the rest of the family they were not sought, it was merely the Akkadian’s, no one else, at least he hoped. The Thoth bloodline must be protected no matter the cost.
Rostov firmly placed his hands on his desk gently pushed himself up, and slowly walked toward the window, stunned. His regal frame hunched slightly as he drew back the linens from the window and soberly gazed out into the darkened courtyard to the gardens below reminiscing of his long past and the decisions he had made over the years, knowing some were ill conceived, while others in the best interest of the family.
The light from the moon reflected the silvery wisps, which graced his temples. A striking man even at his age, he himself presumed he resembled a man in his mid to late 50s, certainly not one as ancient as he. “My body cannot be failing me now. I am immortal.” It must have something to do with the damned curse or worse the deaths of the Akkadian’s – his sister.
He held his hand to his chest, as pain seared through his heart again. Was it his thoughts, which caused his pains or his age? He was aging of this he was certain or perhaps merely the assimilation of human emotion, He certainly hoped the latter was not the case. Humans were by far the weaker race. His kind was obliged for eternity to co-exist with their likes, a pretense, merely, “If the world only realized the truth,” he mused.
Rostov was puzzled. He suspected he was transforming into something he was unfamiliar. Again, his age came to the forefront of his mind. Was it merely age simply taking its toll? More likely it was justice for the sins he had bared for so long, and he was nearing the day he would be called upon by Haides to join the throngs of the Underworld. He wasn’t ready, he had far too much to carry out before that day arrived. The pain seared within his chest, again.
“Why is it my Lord, I feel such agony? I’m immortal! Cursed because of you and your ills. Is this pain a sign of fault? That I grow frail because of it? I ask how that is possible. Is this merely the course of which the curse evolves? Why after so many millennia?” he questioned. With probing eyes, he spoke as if another were in the room. No one except for Rostov was visible.
“I was born into your world with no choice – Thoth, or Caius Thoth as your father named you. I am but a second son. It was you who bestowed upon me my name Lord Gorgevy Caius Ramses Thoth. I did not ask for such an ostentatious name, or a title, or even this life. Yet I have done your bidding my entire existence without question, which is more than I can say for my brother, your prodigal first born heir, Caius II.” He rose and paced the floor.
“Because you and your damned curse I forced to take several surnames. But now it stops. I refuse to take on another. I will be Rostov and no other until the day comes that I see you and Haides in the Chambers of the Undead. And trust me when I tell you I will not give up my family name lightly, like other in our House. Repeatedly we have been forced to find refuge, eventually some even myself I might say have discovered solace, but not until,” He paused a moment. “Ah yes, the early Eleventh Century! The Eleventh Century, do you hear me? Nearly four thousand years after my birth! A regal name, Rostov would you not agree? A name which I selected in honor of the oldest Russian city, the day I decidedly abstained from your ungodly rules, to live out the rest of my life in Kievan Rus’, curse be damned!”
Rostov sighed, his queries never to be resolved. Some days it was if time held still, others like this night he felt each year he had walked upon the earth, and each soul with which he consumed or destroyed. Unruly pain. He resolved the pains were a product of sins nothing more. The gods knew all too well he had indeed sinned. Who could possible exist for as long as he without committing at least one sin, let alone several hundred? After all we were cursed were we not? It couldn’t possibly accumulate one fragment of a difference. “At least I am at peace in my little place of heaven – my Manor.”
It had been more than three hundred years since the day he had first discovered the Manor. An estate constructed for his friend the Tsar, Peter the Great, for which he managed to convince was entirely too small for a man of ‘his’ royal bloodline. Rostov believed the Tsar sold out because he was in dire need of money to fight his many battles, and keep control of his beloved Russia. Whatever the reasons, Rostov benefited and surprised his wife Elisabet with the purchase after the birth of their son, Dagan. Ah Dagan. “My boy you too will be missed as will my sister, your wife. Yet I warned you.” His thoughts reverted to Elisabet.
Elisabet had been quite enamored with the beauty the manor, perched behind the confines of an immense wrought iron gate overlooking the Neva River on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, he recalled. She beamed nearly as bright as the sun that day as she curiously gazed from their carriage the grounds as they proceeded through the grand drive toward their new home.
Rostov explained to her the manor’s fascinating history, Indeed the wood frame was simple, but perfectly suited their family: a three story residence with ten rooms occupying each floor, traditional Russian architecture of the era combined with simple Dutch influences which perfectly paralleled their chosen cultures, his of Russia and hers loosely of Dutch. The large, elaborate windows and a steep gabled bottle green roof covered with emerald colored wooden tiles, which so closely emulated the color of her eyes.
The façade was of red brick in lieu of the typical stone used in Europe during the early Seventeenth Century. Small gardens surrounded a moderate circular drive of stone. Trees and bushes trimmed in the most elaborate topiaries and the side yards, which led to the lavish backyard gardens decorated with marble statues and fountains. But none of these wondrous amenities impressed him, for it was the pond that drew him to the Manor. It mesmerized him, now as it did then. Like tonight, he often found himself talking aloud to those who once walked the earth with him. It was if their souls floated as the lilies atop of the water with graceful beauty and charm.
During the light of day, the irregular shaped water body exuded life and sanguinity, from the vibrant rainbow of flora and vast diversity of the fauna which inhabited in its midst. Yet as darkness fell the pond seemingly transformed into another realm, into a sea of mystery and intrigue not so unlike he and his Elisabet’s world, or their world.
He brought to mind the vast silken sea of glass the light of the full moon had so delicately illuminated the perfect curvature of the pond. The swaying tree branches eerily floated like shadows over the water with the iridescence of the light. As if mirroring images, their bodies wed as they danced that evening under the light of the full moon.
Rostov blinked, as he forced away his thoughts of Elisabet. Yet, it was as if she were standing alongside him with him now, their souls having blended one last time. Her presence was unmistakably near. “I must be going mad.” He murmured.
The strong scent of jasmine and lavender lightly filled the air around him as he looked off into the darkness – he swore she was near. Impossible. “I cannot be mad.” His eyes focused on the gardens below, remotely out of his sights. An image hovered. He blinked again, as he saw a tender smile and the delicate porcelain of her face. He froze. The likeness of Elisabet drew him toward the image, with penetrating eyes of perfectly cut emeralds.
The ethereal form approached the patio. The air inside his quarters became frigid. Fear coursed through his veins. He vacillated. Slowly moving toward the French-like doors he briskly swung open the right side. He stepped out then abruptly stopped. He stared at the form. It was indeed that of Elisabet. Disbelief hung on his face like an old rag. She reached for him. His body swayed backward to avoid contact, uncertain of its motives. Her arm neared again, this time he was unable to flinch. The suppleness of her skin was frighteningly cold as were her fingers, which caressed over the stubble of his unshaven face. Chills rose along the back of his neck, and his blood swirled through his veins as if longing for her touch. Only that was not the case.
His heart raced as the ghostly form faintly spoke, “Gorgevy know those whom are responsible for such despicable acts of brutality upon our family, on my Dagan will be punished. There is much unrest amongst the gods, if the prophecy holds true, it will be the end of our kind. Our bloodline must be protected no matter the cost.”
Rostov’s stare weld with nearly frozen tears. Weary, he rationalized he was hallucinating, or worse was exhibiting signs of dementia. He stretched his arm toward the apparition, reaping in the loss as the ghostly vision vanished.
Wearing contrition on his face, Rostov sighed. For he was responsible for having torn their family apart so long ago, driving Elisabet back to the arms of another. A man, he in truth despised. He knew she never stopped loving him; and that man never stopped loving her. Out of his own unbinding love, she needed to have what he could not possibly give – that of himself. His actions eventually ended in her destruction and ultimate death – Rostov lived with the guilt, a weakness for which he never recovered. Human emotion, or at the very least an emotion set in play by the damned curse. Regardless, such feelings were a weakness. Rostov slowly retreated to his office as his heart ached with enduring remorse for which he no longer would tolerate. He reached for his phone and dialed. After a couple of rings a very tired voice answered.
“It has begun.” Rostov uttered. Not waiting for a reply he hung up the phone and returned to his chair and sat down. Holding his head in his hands he whispered. “The day has come. I only hope my actions will not disturb you, my Lord. No longer can my urges be controlled. I will not allow our kind to be destroyed.”